13 April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

It was likely the last great public work to be built by by private investors.

I watched it get built, as we crossed the Chesapeake on ferries on our semi-annual trips to visit my grandmother; I have posted about it here several times.

My local rag recounts the story of the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, 17.5 miles of trestle, two tunnels, and one high-level bridge crossing the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean.

Every time I cross it–and I have crossed it dozens of times–I marvel. Crossing it late at night, there is just you, the bridge, and the ocean. If you want to cross it with me, download and watch this file (*.mov).

One time many years ago, I drove down from Washington to pick up my brother, who was flying in from South Carolina for a holiday (as I waited for him at the Norfolk Airport, I was accosted by a Moonie–remember Moonies?–to whom I gave a dollar to leave me alone because I had been on the road for four hours and just could not cope). In the first tunnel, some fellow crossed the double-yellow line to pass us at high speed. As we exited the second tunnel, we saw that fellow in earnest conference with the CBBT police.

These days, it would never be built.

The money would instead be devoted to paying for the country club memberships for the one per cent.


Here’s more about the Chesapeake Bay Ferries. The Princess Anne was the flagship; the Accomac was pressed into service when another ship was in repair. All of them had a restaurant and a lounge. In later years, when our family was a bit more flush, we might have breakfast on board.

The funnest thing for my brother and me was hanging over the bow railing in the summer watching the boat cut through at a stunning speed of ten or eleven knots the “stinging nettles,” Eastern Shore for stinging jellyfish which were clearly visible from the height of the upper deck. (The ferries took a scheduled hour and a half for the seventeen-mile crossing.)

Stinging nettles were a steady summer threat at Chesapeake Bay beaches in the lower bay (in the upper bay, there is too much fresh water for them to survive). A sting was a common thing if you swam in the bay in the late summer. In the wider bay, the jellyfish would grow to be three feet or more across.

10 April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

We recently splurged on a Roomba, because, frankly, vacuuming this place is annoying. The vacuum cleaner sucks real good, but it’s heavy and awkward, plus there’s about an hour of moving stuff about to every 15 minutes of vacuuming–chairs, coffee tables, cat stuff, throw rugs, and so on.

I don’t expect the robot to replace the vacuum, but it looks as if it will supplement it nicely.

07 April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

Humans love to blame God for things that humans do. A letter to the editor in my local rag called out the state of North Carolina for attributing Duke of Hazardous’s tar sands spills as “acts of God” (the precise term was “natural disaster”), though it was the Duke, not God or nature, who failed to maintain the retention ponds which failed to retain.

At the Tampa Bay Times, Timothy Egan recalls visiting some 25 years ago the site of the recent mudslide in Washington. He points out that it, too, was no act of God, but an act of man.

Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it had been for most of March.


Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

Persons do love to hide behind God to escape responsibility for their own evil, venality, and hate. Indeed, entire religions thrive on enabling persons to blame God for their own evil, venality, and hate.

Blaming God is a growth industry.

29 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

I lowered my bicycle from its home near the ceiling of the garage and pumped up its tires yesterday. (I installed a little boat-trailer winch on the wall and ran clothesline through eyelets in the ceiling for a DIY bike lift/stand; the machine has been hanging over my head for the winter.)

A ride soon beckons.

27 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

Back when we had a boat, we were out one day on the upper Chesapeake. The sea was calm and the sky was clear and sunny.

As we ran down to Still Pond Creek, my bright orange baseball cap blew off, so, natch, I circled back to get it. I saw it disappear into the wake and knew almost exactly where it went.

It still took me 15 minutes to find it in waves of much less than a foot.

People constructing conspiracy theories about how difficult it is to find the wreckage of a plane in rough seas in a far corner of the world (and planes generally don’t have great float characteristics) have obviously never tried to find something floating in the sea.

24 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

When I was in college, back in the olden days, when I was a young ‘un, I quickly realized that fraternities were little more than drinking clubs with secret handshakes, hazing, and dues. Why, I reasoned, should I pay dues to drink when I could do it quite nicely for the price of a six?

Nothing I have read or learned since has changed my conclusion. As far as I can see, the end of “Greek” societies would detract neither from society nor from college life.

For example.

02 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

As much as I disdain the entertainment industry’s self-congratulatory selfies awards ceremonies, I do hope that 12 Years a Slave mops up the competition, if only to savor the right-wing freak out that is sure to follow.

For an serious and intelligent discussion of the movie and its historical accuracy, go to TWiB’s new Historical Blackness series for 58 minutes of enlightenment. (Warning: It may deter you from wanting to watch the movie.)


And so it begins.

02 March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

If I remember correctly, I believe that the Czar once invaded the Ottoman empire with a troop of Hassocks.

27 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

One wonders whether, had Republicans not decided to rally the forces of hate with anti-gay legislation in the years of President George the Worst (you know, the President they don’t talk about), would they be losing case after case in the courts today?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Gratuitous hate for political gain can collect its own gratuity.

24 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Geek Stuff, Personal Musings

I just got the email that my new laptop is ready to be shipped. Extra bonus fact: Microsoft has never been near it. It’s Linux out of the box.

I’m retiring the oldest machine (it’s starting to lag under the demands I place on it, particularly photo editing, as it only has a gig of RAM), putting Mageia on it, and giving it to Second Son, who is currently computerless except for his phone.

Who would have envisioned 20 years ago that a house would have more than one computer? And today I have two on this desk. (KVM switches are your friend.)

17 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

If it has turkey instead of corned beef, it may be a thing, but it’s not a Reuben.

You won’t find me at that dive.

I’ll be at Elias, where a “Philly cheese steak” is a cheese steak and a gyro is a gyro.

13 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

My bank does not endear itself to me by displaying “Happy Birthday” on the ATM when I insert my card.

Quite the opposiite . . . .

08 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

Virginia mandates a seachange (follow the link for details).

The power of grassroots lobbying was on vivid display Thursday as Virginia lawmakers, injecting themselves into an emotional international dispute, took on the role of geographers, cartographers and content providers for school textbooks.

As hundreds of Korean-Americans watched intently, the House of Delegates passed legislation mandating that any new textbooks approved by the state Board of Education, when referring to the Sea of Japan, must note that it is also referred to as the East Sea.

I don’t really have an opinion about this.

Korean-Americans clearly feel very strongly and I do not. Wikipedia has a long article about the dispute over the name; the dispute itself seems fairly recent, though the names in question are ancient. I’m used to the term, “Sea of Japan,” because, well, it’s what I’m used to, but that’s not a reason.

In the larger picture, though, it seems to me that, if Texas can subvert the nation’s textbooks by mandating what is, ultimately, bullshit, I cannot criticize Virginia for recognizing a legitimate difference of opinion.

Full disclosure:

I have recently been reading a lot of Japanese history, because something–I forget what–got me interested in unlearning Western stereotypes and learning about Japan, which has a long, rich, and complex story.

I’m inclined towards “Sea of Japan,” but I think that’s because of the reading I’ve been doing and of what I’m used to.

Maybe next I should bone up on the history of Korea.

07 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

When Pat Robertson thinks you are a joke, does that mean you are a joke squared?

04 February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

When my parents drove us to Richmond via the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel when I was a young ‘un, we would sometimes see her in port at the Norfolk Naval Base.

She has been in the mothball fleet at the Philadelphia Naval Base for some time.

The USS Forrestal is slated to begin its final voyage from Philadelphia to Texas at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

The Navy offered her for use as a museum or memorial, but there were no viable offers.

28 January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

I’ll read about it tomorrow. That’s what newspapers are for.

In the meantime, I wish for the end of inane acronyms like POTUS and FLOTUS and SOTU.

A pox on the reporters and bloggers who think such constructions are cutesy-wutesy. They should STFU.

In other news, the snow in the street is up to the level of the top of the curb, indicating that five or six inches have already fallen, and it looks to keep up all night. Looks like a snow day tomorrow. See some pictures here.

One of the nice things about where I live is that I won’t have to shovel snow!

More »

18 January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

I have always considered “Cornhole” to be a most unfortunate name for a game.

07 January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

What Chauncey Devega said.

Right-wingers say mean, nasty, (and, unlike in this case) false and perfidious things all day, every day. Rather than apologize, they do it again, harder, harder. It’s how they roll.

Why settle for one standard, when you can have two?

30 December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

We went to see The Hobbit, Part 2, last weekend.

It is hardly canonical; in turning one slim book into three fat movies, Peter Jackson dumped a lot of stuff into the film that is not in the original. With one exception (an implied romance between an elf and dwarf? I think not!), it is in the spirit, if not the letter, of Tolkien.

If you are looking for a faithful adaptation of the book, don’t bother seeing the film. If you want a fun three-hour non-stop ride, see it today.

And the scenes of the New Zealand countryside make you want to book an airline ticket to the southern hemisphere as soon as you leave the theatre.

23 December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Personal Musings

In case you wondered what it is like to be overwhelmed by Christmas–not in “to do list” terms, but in cultural terms, to be an outsider–the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Avrum Link can explain it to you.

I urge you to read it.


We have been listening to Christmas music, not every day, but a lot on weekends; we prefer internet streams that feature traditional stuff, such as Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, and the like, the stuff we listened to as kids.

As I listened to a recording of Bing Crosby singing the Lord’s prayer, particularly the bit about

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive the trespasses of others

I found myself thinking of those who mindlessly mouth those words every Sunday, then leave their churches and spend the rest of the week forgiving no one.

Do they ever wonder whether their prayer will be answered, that they will be forgiven in the same manner as they forgive others?